Archive | September, 2013

What is a Vapid Narcissist, Part II

30 Sep

What is a Vapid Narcissist, Part II

This is a reblog of my own post from Friday about vapid narcissism. It is so important that we use accurate words to communicate with each other, especially when communicating about spiritual truths. So I studied those two words and walked them out . . .

A further thought I had, leading to this second part to the post, was how often we try to convince people that we accept them in all shapes and sizes, because God accepts them in all shapes and sizes. We bend over backwards to do this after weight loss, both for the sake of the Kingdom but also because we do not want to be mistaken for one of those vapid narcissists who only value people for their thinness.

However, I think a mistake we make is to turn around and loudly run ourselves down for the years we spent in an overweight condition, even holding up our previous pictures for ridicule. What does that say to the person struggling with weight issues? What if I ridicule a picture of myself at 260 pounds in front of a 300 pound woman? Am I showing her grace or condemnation? I think the latter.

I have always been careful to bring a much-loved portrait of Noel and me when I was at 260 pounds to show as my “before” picture at Weight Watchers. I emphasize that that was still a beautiful woman and I am still the same person. I think it is important to do that for the sake of the women before me struggling with morbid obesity. I also think it is important to do that for the sake of my own integrity. I am still that same person. And I could regain weight someday. I hope I will not, but it could happen. No promises in life.  Steroids for chemotherapy put on 40 of my pounds!

It is counterintuitive, isn’t it? You would think I was more spiritual for distancing myself from the 260-pound Mary, but, in the end, identifying with the 260-pound Mary is where I find spiritual growth.

We all are fallen and desperately broken. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Jeremiah, speaking for the Lord, told us that. So, in embracing the fact that I have fallen and can only get up by the work of a wonderful Saviour in my life, Jesus Christ, I become most fully the person He created me to be!

And in pronouncing a picture of a 260-pound woman beautiful, me in my former state, I don’t become a vapid narcissist, but a beacon of hope for others who struggle.

Amen and amen!


What is a Vapid Narcissist?

26 Sep

What is a Vapid Narcissist?

I have been dialoging with a precious friend who is doing this year what I did last year–losing 100 pounds.

She wrote something fascinating in her blog this week, something timely that gave me pause to think.

She has been focusing on the idolatrous affair our society can have with food. And, looking ahead to when she has finished her weight loss, she asks, “What next?”

She wisely does not want to switch from one idolatry to another, so she wants to avoid switching her worship from food to clothes or makeup or just the satisfaction of seeing a small body in the mirror.

She used the phrase “vapid narcissist” to describe what she most of all does not wish to become.

That phrase both startled me and pleased me. It was both expected and unexpected at the same time.

You see, when you grow up in certain sectors of our society, that is the first thing you think of when you think of having a small, visually lovely body: “How many ways can I misuse my newfound freedom from obesity?”

And, while I agree with John Calvin when he said that the human heart is an idol factory, I have come to the point where my greatest fear is no longer how I will misuse my thinness. My greatest fear is misrepresenting God’s grace in all of this. And I struggle with that constantly because there is so much I don’t know, both about God and about this world He has made and how His principles interact with it.

Lately I cling to the verse that says He has freely given us all things to enjoy. In fact, if He leaves something open in His Word and does not address it one way or the other, I have been consciously trying to not argue from silence. If He does not forbid someone from doing something, neither do I. I leave that as a matter for each man’s conscience. It is not as easy to do as it sounds.

For example, the enclosed link would sum up about everything I believe about narcissism (a secular term, thus a secular article).

I don’t believe anymore (as I did while I was being raised by one of the most frugal mothers on earth) that owning and wearing pretty clothes automatically indicates that someone is vain.

With God, it is so much more complicated than that, since God looks on the heart. Some of us can be totally given over to nice clothes (or nice makeup or nice jewelry) to the point we don’t even see Him or His work in our lives. Yet someone else can have just as many nice things to put on, yet without the slightest tint of idolatry.

Vapidness means emptiness. Narcissism means putting myself at the center of everything as though other human beings were mere things to operate for my convenience.

So what is it when a group of ladies, out with their husbands, converges on the ladies’ room for giggling conversations, while adjusting their lovely dresses over their trim figures? Is it empty and selfish when they emerge from that ladies’ room and bask in the appreciative looks of their own husbands?

Ya know, I don’t think it is.

If I am dressed up and fellowshipping with my similarly dressed up girlfriends, then enjoying the healthy appreciation of my husband’s eyes, that may very well be one way of seeing how God has richly given me all things to enjoy.

Narcissists separate themselves from others, feeling special. If I am giggling with my girlfriends, enjoying how lovely we all look, then that is not narcissism.

If I am flirting with the husband God has given me, that is not emptiness.

I only point this out because we can tend to act as though God is the big spoilsport in the sky. We can unconsciously kill every buzz life gives us, lest God see us having a good time and move in to squash us like a bug. Only, that would not be a loving God. That would be a monster.

Oh, yes, we certainly need to avoid becoming a vapid narcissist when we lose weight, or at any other time. But we need to make sure we define the term accurately, too.

For some of us who have been raised with values that tend toward Puritanism, those definitions can make all the difference.

Not to discredit the accomplishments of the Puritans, but no age was a golden age.

In every age, the idea is to walk closely with the Lord and feel His pleasure in our relationship with Him.

The Father really is as good as Jesus said He is!!!

Breaking Fellowship with Someone (a Joel Osteen Discussion)

26 Sep

Romans 16:17, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

The other night I entered into what became a heated exchange between about a dozen people on Facebook about some statements recently made by Joel Osteen.

Some of the participants in the discussion believed the statements reveal that Osteen is not orthodox in his Christianity–that he is a “false prophet” who is not even truly a Christian.

Others believed that the statements were quoted out of context.

I don’t know either way. Joel Osteen doesn’t matter that much to me to even look them up. I don’t listen to him anyway.

However, what came next was telling.

One woman quoted the above verse as a proof text that anyone who listened to Joel Osteen was also not truly a Christian.

That was where I entered into the discussion. Two of my young friends had been defending Joel Osteen. Unlike me, they have listened to him. But, unlike what this woman was saying, I believe that my young friends are truly born again Christians.

And I believe that woman on Facebook was taking the above verse out of context.

The verse, in context, is about causing unnecessary divisions in the Body of Christ. That would be divisions over fine points of doctrine. On those, we are allowed a conscience clause.

I sometimes read controversial writers because I need to know what they are saying, both to teach a Sunday school class and to write my blog. I often research them so I can state a Scriptural case for why I disagree with them.

I see nowhere in the Bible that we are called to put our heads in the sand and ignore everyone who teaches contrary to what we teach.

We do have to be careful to not endorse teaching that is not orthodox Christianity. But my two young friends were not doing that. They had quietly listened to a few of Joel Osteen’s teachings in the past–they were not pushing them on anyone else.

And the woman on Facebook was making that a litmus test as to whether my two friends could be born again.

That is just wrong.

I have taught Sunday school with the mothers of both of those young gals for years. I have watched these friends grow up and start their families. Both are incredible moms, in church and raising their children to love the Lord. I may not always agree with them or with the people they choose to read, but they might not always agree with me on my choices either. That is what Christian liberty is. The freedom to read and think and pray and work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

And the verse in Romans says the person who causes unnecessary division is the one who is wrong. Like the person who throws a remark out there that anyone who has ever listened to a sermon by Joel Osteen is going to hell. That person allows no Christian liberty to anyone except herself!!!

May God protect us from ourselves! We are our own worst enemies sometimes in the Body of Christ!!!

My Oldest Possession!

25 Sep

Tonight I gave away what may be my oldest possession, and the only one I owned before I met Noel.  

Ironically, I got it the same day I met Noel.  Several hours before.  It almost led to me not meeting Noel, too. 

It was my bicycle.  It was a necessity when I lived in London, as I worked some days at 5 AM, preparing for a brief at 9 AM for the Admiral.  The Tube (subway) didn’t run that early and the night buses were sporadic.  So I got a bike when I transferred to being the watchstander who briefed the Admiral at the start of my shift. 

I had picked it up early on that Friday and had ridden it back from the bike shop, much to my chagrin.  I never got completely used to riding a bike in London traffic.  The first day was the scariest!!! 

I had wanted to go to the Midsummer Night’s Passion Play (a medieval play about Bible events) at a church down the street from my home.  But none of my friends could go, as they were all watchstanders, too, many of them on opposite shifts to me.

I was tired and frazzled after riding my bike home.  I had to work my shift early the next day, on Saturday.  I almost didn’t go to the play.

But I did go in the end, all by myself, not knowing a soul,

And Noel came to that play, having heard from a friend in the cast that her friend would be in the audience.  Noel was supposed to look out for this girl.  It was kind of a blind date.

Only . . . that girl never came.  And apparently we resembled each other quite a bit.

You know what happened!!!  A case of mistaken identity.  

When we figured out the mistake, we already were having a good conversation.  So we sat together during the play and continued our conversation during the intermission.  He ended up walking me home.  

We kind of fell in love at first sight, although I would say I tried to play it very cool for the first several months.

After that, we both knew that it was the real thing!  

And now we are approaching our 25th anniversary.  

That makes the bike (whispers) . . . a little more than 28 years old!!!  A grand old Raleigh-Richmond, which was the luxury bike of the U.K. back in the day! 




Why, Iconobaptist? . . . A Year Later

25 Sep

I began Iconobaptist in July of 2012 as a vehicle in which to discuss beliefs as a Baptist who believes in the inerrant, inspired Word of God.

Where my beliefs conflict with the Word of God, I will always choose the Word. Sometimes I need to study a bit first, but I always intend to choose the Word of God over any manmade system, including my Baptist faith.  

Fact is, we all find a denomination (or non-denominational church) where we can live with the manmade system and we join.  We do that because God has shown us in the New Testament that He values the church as the Body of Christ and we should, too.

We will never find a church that matches every one of our beliefs, up and down the line, because we are all different people and no one person or system (except Christ and His Word) has totally answered every question in life correctly.  

Or . . . if someone has, we would not know how to identify that person.

Only Christ has that standing, forever!!!  Amen!

So . . . I have tried to hit some major areas of belief in my posts and to make some conjectures about the minor areas where we can differ.

I have included posts called reblogs from other authors who have good posts that support what I am trying to do, or that make us think. 

I have recently begun trimming the reblogs from my website, because they exist somewhere else.  

If I have left them up for a year for you to see, you will either have read them  . . . or not.  

By now, it is better for me to take them down and free up the space.

I will still use reblogs to help us start thinking about issues.  But they will not stay up on my website forever.  A few will, but the majority will not.  

So . . . if you like them, please bookmark them when you see them the first time.  Then they will be yours forever! 

Note to Renee Manka:  I will leave The Matheny Manifesto up forever, God willing!!!

Oh, for Heaven’s Sake, Senator Cruz–If You’re Gonna Filibuster . . .

25 Sep

If you have hours to read on the Senate floor, read the Affordable Care Act.  Out loud.  As much of it as you can before your voice gives out.

Demonstrate to the American people that you can’t even read all of that monster in one filibuster!  This is what you are working to repeal, right?

Show us that it is so long that no one in your Senate, or the House of Representatives, has ever read it all the way through.  Show us that there can be language in it in which unintended consequences are lurking . . . 

Big consequences.  

Unfortunately, the Democrats have won the war of words on this one.  They have done that by framing the debate and grabbing the high moral ground.

They should not have been able to do that.

Lots of solidly middle class families are waking up to the reality that, though they thought they would be the recipients of government aid in buying their health care, due to the kind words that were said about helping middle class people, they actually are now regarded as upper middle class for the purposes of this legislation.  They will be paying more than before, as their plans are regarded as “Cadillac plans.”

Yup, apparently just owning a private plan of your own was regarded as a “Cadillac” kind of thing to do.  If you were struggling to pay for it before, just watch what is going to happen now.  

Read the Affordable Care Act, Senator Cruz!  Read it on the Senate floor.  Go boldly where never a senator has gone before . . .

Theology of Food

24 Sep

This post is an invitation to those Christians who are with me on the lifelong journey to have a right relationship with food . . .

I have a lot of questions.  I have some ideas of what the answers might be but . . . I also don’t speak dogmatically where the Scriptures are silent.  I welcome your ideas.  

It is much harder to put food in a proper context in life because, unlike other things that can harm us, we can’t give up eating altogether.  We can give up drinking.  We can avoid tobacco and recreational drugs.  We can avoid extramarital sex (or even be single all life long and live without sex altogether).  But we all need to eat.  And we need to do that without harming ourselves or our testimony in the process.  

As a very good friend has recently written, contradicting our testimony by being a glutton is not helpful to anyone.

Yet, the balancing truth is that God has clearly let us know He has richly given us all things to enjoy!  Food is one of those things.  

There will be a Marriage Supper of the Lamb someday.  We enjoy fellowship over food.  So having a hate relationship with food doesn’t seem to be what we are after either.  

How do we love food without loving it too much?  Without making it an idol which blocks our view of our Saviour?

Again, God gave us the principle, but not the specifics.  

And the specifics may differ from person to person.  Sometimes Christian freedom is like that.

For example, now that I am at my Weight Watchers goal (for almost a year) I seem able to eat a lot of fruit without regaining any weight.  I know a handful of friends who can’t do that.  Is it sinful for them to eat vast quantities of fruit, but not for me to do the same thing?

On the other hand, I live without dessert, by and large, except for my once-a-month piece of Carnegie Deli cheesecake from a local deli that imports it.  

There are some gals who are naturally thin and could eat a slice of that cheesecake every day without gaining weight.  Is it sinful for me to eat cheesecake every day but not for them to do the same thing?

I suspect that much lies within the attitudes and intents of our hearts.  But in some cases, we may be governed by our body types, too.  My particular body would be fat if I ate a big piece of cheesecake every day.  And, back to my friend’s observation, I would have a hard time being credible while teaching on Christian discipline to young women if my own body were almost 300 pounds.  

Sometimes we just have to go with what we’ve got and trust that God gave us the right body!

See how many questions I have?  I would love to dialogue with anyone else who sees that there is a deeper theology in play here.  Counting Weight Watchers points works, but I always like to understand the underlying facets, too.  Especially as it relates to my relationship to the Lord and how to better glorify Him . . . 

Come with me on the journey?

%d bloggers like this: